Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Robert Palmer Didn't Get It Quite Right.

"You're gonna have to face it you're addicted to love!" No, not love. Food. I was addicted to the false comfort of food.

This is part of someone's comment in response to my admission on the 19th of October about the binge from the previous weekend.

"Second; I hesitate to suggest this because there's such taboo in society about admitting feeling powerless over food, but I wonder if you wouldn't benefit from Overeater's Anonymous. The reason I mention it is because the way you describe your relationship with eating, i.e. the sense of hopelessness of staying on track; feeling like you don't have control over what or how much you eat; asking if you will binge again; not wanting to eat, but doing it anyway; eating when not hungry; it reminds me of an addict, only your addiction is food. If you look into it and decide, "no way--it's not for me" nothing lost, but if it helps you, then all the better. Whatever you decide know that I hope you are able to find peace and are able to acheive the goals you have set for yourself. hell, i wish that for myself. :P

I hope my suggestion does not offend you. Please know that is the last thing on earth I want. I love reading your comments and think you are insightful and funny. Hang in there! :)"

It's taken me three days to get my thoughts in order enough to post a reply. I didn't wanna go off half-baked and possibly come across as my way is the only way and you suck for even suggesting such a thing, because I don't feel that way at all. I did appreciate her questions, all of everyone's questions. It makes me sit back and think some more about what I'm doing and where I'm going. It helps me to put into words what I'm actually feeling. Well as long as the comments and questions are constructive, of course.

This'll be a long'un, bear with me please. ;)

Thanks, P. I know that emotional binging has been my biggest issue in the past, it's one I've been working at dealing with since April this year (since reading Losing Your Pounds Of Pain and making great inroads into understanding just what has caused my obesity. Have posted much of that journey on the weight loss forum this comment came from, and in my various livejournals.)

Her suggestion didn't offend me in the slightest. I believe that Overeaters Anonymous do a fantastic job of helping many, many people overcome their addictions to food. I did go and look at their website, and read it through thoroughly after watching some television show where a woman did successfully (by successfully I mean lose the weight and keep it off by continuing to live a healthy lifestyle) lose weight with them.

Unfortunately for my participation in their program? I'm not a religious person. I do have my own set of beliefs, but I don't follow any organised religion and a lot of their 12 steps do involve dealing with God. So, I knew I would not be comfortable with their program, even before attempting to use it. Looking at the steps I realise I have followed the spirit of some of their steps, but others have just not applied to me in the slightest, and so consequently I would have “failed” their program. For the people who find this works for them, I think it's wonderful. Same with weight watchers, Jenny Craig, or any other lifestyle change that people do to become healthy, fully functioning members of society. Finding what works for us is what matters. Finding good health truly is a wonderful thing to achieve.

OA wouldn't have worked for me, but their website did encourage me to keep looking. I knew there had to be something out there for me.

Eventually it wasn't some nebulous Out There, it was In Here, that did it for me.

You see, food wasn't really my addiction. Binge eating for me was a band aid that I put on any emotions that I didn't want to feel, or felt uncomfortable feeling. It was also about making my outer reality reflect the inner vision of how I saw myself. So, that was another reason that OA really didn't resonate for me. I'm sure that if it had been right for me, it wouldn't have mattered about God being a big part of their steps, I could have substituted in whatever higher power I believed in, be it Allah, Buddha, Universal Soul Mind, Earth Mother, Tree Spirits, or Little Green Men. I'm sure even agnostics or atheists could find a way to make it work. But I just knew deep in my heart it wasn't right, for me.

My binging wasn't just on food, it was also on reading. Whenever I was depressed in the past, I would read book after book after book for days or even weeks and months on end, as well as eating to deny my feelings.

Dieting was also part of my problem. I'd count calories and exercise and obsess over food completely. I remember one phone call with my mother (who also has had an obesity problem in the past, she's actually only about ten kilos from her goal weight now, also through eating intuitively and exercising regularly. She's been leading the way for over 18 months now and I was just too stubborn to LISTEN to what she, and my body, were actually saying to me.) where she said something along the lines of: For fuck's sake can't we talk about something other than food and weight loss?
I'd diet so well, that my body would rebel and demand feedings every month or so of the nutrition I was denying my very active self, and I'd feel like I'd blown the diet so what was the point. And so on into a depression cycle that would see me balloon even bigger than I'd ever previously been. This cycle has gone on for about ten years now.

Finally after much soul searching I realised that my self-hatred and feelings of being fat all stemmed from when I started puberty. It's a bit of a kick in the head to realise that you're letting your ten year old self still dictate your actions when you were coming up thirty! So I went back and thought, over many months, about how my relationship with food has changed since then. How I've reacted to various events in my life. How my family relates to food and reacts to stress (either good or bad) and which bits were learned behaviour, and which was self-inflicted.

Once I'd worked all that out, I then set about figuring out just what I'd done in previous attempts to lose weight that had actually been successful.

Every single one involved intuitive eating and regular exercise. Varied exercise too. OK. So, perhaps counting calories wasn't for me. But, as a learning exercise I decided to eat intuitively, and at the end of every several days or a week, or whenever it took my fancy, to calculate what I was eating. So, yeah, I was still keeping a food diary, but I wasn't sticking to some figure out of a book. Sure, I did take advice from Karen Daly's Fats and Figures about what was a healthy fat and calories range to eat from, but if I went over, so what? I was going to listen to my body once and for all. My stomach that is, not my tastebuds. Sure, they'd get the occasional look in if I felt like a binge, but they wouldn't be the boss of me and my emotions anymore.

That was the easy part. Well, okay, not easy by any means, but easier than some of the other stuff. Again it took me a few months to get into the swing of that.

Next, well that was learning to accept and feel my “negative” emotions without judging them or me. They're just emotions. Anger, Fear, Sadness, Loneliness, even Hate, they're all natural things to feel at certain times. I wasn't a bad person for feeling them, they just happen.

Then, a few weeks after that I discovered the book Overcoming Overeating. Now a great deal in the book resonated with me. I took what I needed, and left what didn't work for me, or what I'd already achieved. Yes, I admit it, it was nice receiving validation from Out There about what I'd been trying to do for years upon years. Funny how we need validation instead of just trusting ourselves isn't it? The thing that amazed me the most is that not just obese people have overeating or binging problems with food. Or an addiction to food. It was the first time that I'd come to realise that 'skinny' people can have overeating disorders as well. Food Addicts come in all shapes and sizesl.

The last few weeks I've been studying 'normal' people. Watching how they eat, how they exercise, asking them about how they see food and how it plays a part in their lives. And the thing I've come to realise is that all these years I haven't really loved food as much as I thought I did. Love means acceptance. I wasn't accepting food, I was abusing it.

OK, so yeah that did make me a food addict, but the solution that OA offered was not one that would work for my addiction. We weren't compatible. Does that make sense? It was kinda like going on a blind date, and instinctively knowing that we were completely wrong for each other, but would be perfectly happy with other people. Like how you sometimes don't get what your best friend sees in one of her other friends, but they adore each other. LOL I needed to find what worked for me. And thankfully I have.

The binge from the other week was brought on by several factors. My birthday had been coming up that week and it was an important birthday. I believed I would be spending it home alone with no friends and no family around me. For a very social person who'd always believed she'd have a big party for it, it was a big letdown. It also brought home to me the fact that after living here for three and a half years I was no closer to finding any friends here in the same city. I have many close friends, a lot of good acquaintances and a large and loving family. We only have one close friend within several hundred miles, and he is one of Hubby's college friends. Not disparaging him or his lovely wife in the slightest, but despite being close friends, they are friends we associate with maybe twice a year, if we're lucky. Mainly due to us not wanting to be always calling them and saying come hang out with us. Don't want to chase them away, and they do have their own lives with lots of friends to go out with. Kinda hard to have a party with only four of us. Besides I really didn't want to do the whole go out to dinner thing again like we've done every year since I've been here. I certainly didn't feel like cooking on my own birthday. (rambling on I know, sorry just trying to explain where I was at that weekend).
I was depressed, really truly depressed. And I wanted to see all my family and friends... and dammit I wanted to hug my dog! My great-aunt was also in hospital with renal failure.. or had just come out, can't quite remember. We'd had a bullshit letter that week from a debt collection agency (That I dealt with again today.. without binging yay!) It was a shitty week. If any of you have suffered depression you know how debilitating it can be. My medication of choice? Food.

Adding to that melting pot of stormy angst was the fact that I had finally reached the point where I'm no longer going to count calories. Sure, I'll keep the food diary, but I will no longer be measuring anything or counting so much as a single calorie or gram of whatever.

Scary concept to a girl who loves to crunch numbers and be “in control” of her shit. I'd finally told myself “I trust you” and “I believe you are a healthy person” and I was right! I was like the kid learning to ride a bike. Mum or Dad running behind me holding onto the seat whilst I ride on completely confident and assured of my safety net. Shock! Horror! When I complete my big curving turn and face back down the street . . . there's the safety net a hundred metres behind me looking on proud as can be. Of course I fell off the damn bike. LOL

But I went with the binge. I didn't judge myself. I acknowledged it. Definitely admitted to feeling scared and all negative-like, and then picked myself back up as soon as was possible. It was kinda like how I imagined they felt in the sixties when burning their bras. No more would the man oppress me and tell me what to do. I was me, free and unfettered at last.

Scary, exhilarating, joyous and downright weird all at once is how it feels.

Do you know how much more time I have to live my life now that I'm not counting calories? That was another scary thing. I couldn't avoid living my life. Writing, chores, going outside of the house for more than just exercise. So much more to see and do when I'm not obsessing over food.

And no, I'm not preaching or advocating here in the slightest. I'm only sharing what has worked and is working for me. Just like OA wasn't my bag baybee, this way of doing things is not going to be for everyone else. Shit, it may not be for anyone else, but in the long run, that doesn't matter. Because it's working for me.

One really liberating experience was eating just a banana for dinner one night. That may not sound like ground-breaking stuff but for me it was. It was the first time in my life that I didn't eat a full meal just because I was “s'posed to”. I wasn't all that hungry and all I really felt like was that banana. Yet, I got out the ingredients for a cup of tea and toast or muffins or something. Then I put them back, because even though it was “dinner time” I just wasn't hungry for anything else. And so what if I woke up hungry later in the evening and wanted a snack. That'd be just fine. If I slept through, then that'd be just fine too. The other day for lunch I ate half a pizza because I was very hungry. So what? It was what I wanted at the time. The other day at hubby's work, I went back for seconds at lunch. I was starving. Today so far all I've eaten is a couple of sandwiches and a few dried apricots. Really am not all that hungry.
Another breakthrough last night. Hubby wanted minestrone, or something vegetable-ish. He eats an animal protein every day at work, so he always once lighter type foods at home on the weekend. I really wanted meat of some kind last night. So I reheated his minestrone, and went looking for what I wanted. I'd thought it was steak, but nope, it was won-tons/gyozas/potstickers. LOL We both got what satisfied our appetites and felt good for it.

Sorry to go on blowing my horn here, but I just feel SO good about all this. Such little things but believe you me, in my world, they're huge steps forward.

And watching the people who've never had a food addiction eat? I came to realise that they do indeed listen to their bodies. They'll have hungry days, not so hungry days, bingey days (or weeks) but on the most part they just eat as much as they want and no more.

My whole view of food is changing and I don't know where it's gonna take me. I love food. For me food is an exercise in sensuality. But you know what? It's becoming just that, a PART of my life that I enjoy, not my whole reason for being.
I also am beginning to love the sensual feeling that is a strong healthy body. My womanly body. I'm not a ten year old kid. I love my curves. I love my freckles. I love my wrinkles and signs of maturity. I love my blemishes. All of this and more makes up who I am. It shows the path I've taken to become the person I am today. I'm also learning to love the scared child/woman that needed food to comfort her. I'm accepting her, but also showing her that she doesn't need to keep living in that self destructive way. In many ways I'm treating her like I hope to treat my own kids some day, like how I treat anyone else in my life that I love and respect, and how they treat me.

Love, trust and respect. Those other people deserve it from me, and I deserve to have me apply them to myself also.

So I'm living my life to the best of my ability each day. One day at a time. That's all any of us can do.

Some days I may not like me very much either, but that's perfectly OK. No one's agreeable 100% of the time. If they tell you so, they're a bullshit artist of the highest sort, even if that person is yourself.

0 Nibbles: